Fans use 22 percent of the world’s electricity. Their design hasn’t changed in a century. A revolutionary innovation saves 85 percent of energy. By JURRIAAN KAMP
Air is a free resource for all human beings across the planet. Healthy clean air may be increasingly precious in the cities of the world, but nobody charges for the use of air. Nevertheless, you can make a lot of money with air if you know how to use it. Ask an albatross who can fly hundreds of miles with scarcely a beat of is wings. Our aircraft are hopelessly clumsy structures compared with the effortless flight of birds of prey. We use 22 percent of the world’s electricity to operate fans to cool people and things. Fans generate as much CO2 emissions as all the cars in the world. But—with better design—we can save 85 percent of the electricity that fans use today. That is the promise of Flair, a revolutionary new fan. That is how you can make money—and save the world—with air.
The Australian naturalist started PAX Scientific, a California-based company that creates technology based on natural patterns. Harman, 70, has spent almost 60 years observing natural phenomena to find ways to improve the design of industrial products. As a boy, he noticed that objects in nature never move in straight lines. “All movement is radial”, he says. “There’s no such thing as a straight line.” To prove his point, he says, lift one hand in front of you and inscribe a circle in the air with your finger. As you do this, the Earth is spinning on its axis and moving through space at 18.5 miles a second. The solar system as a whole is barreling through space at 137 miles per second. By the time your circle is complete, you and the planet have spiraled more than 137 miles through space. From that perspective, Harman says, “your circle looks like an expanded uncoiling spring that is more than 137 miles long.”
All fluids and gases flow in spirals—vortices. Trees and plants grow in spirals. The same spirals are visible in seashells, in rock formations, and in the patterns of rivers and tornadoes. The blood in our veins circulates in spirals, just like the whirlpool that forms above the drain in a bathtub. All these spirals in nature follow the same geometric pattern that is known as the Golden Proportion. The ratio among the radii of these spiraling circles—called phi, after the ancient Greek Phidias, designer of the Parthenon—remains constant. Phi is an irrational number, meaning it cannot be fully calculated. Nevertheless, phi is essential to mathematics and physics, because phi is essential to life. Leonardo da Vinci showed man’s phi proportions in his famous Vitruvian Man.
“When the whole universe moves and grows according to the Golden Proportion, why is it that modern science is not studying the vortex?”, Harman asks. “I’m amazed that so little is understood about what is obviously a fundamental building block of the universe. Nothing happens except by means of it. It’s the most efficient way for all energy to move. We should just except that, after 15 billion years of experimentation, trial and error and adaptation, nature has probably evolved to the most efficient streamlining method possible. It should be our highest priority to study and understand it.”
It took Harman a long time to nail down the geometry of the vortex, and it was—interestingly enough—not a computer that helped him succeed. Twenty years ago, he made a dramatic breakthrough in his career when he was able to freeze a natural vortex in his bathtub. That “prototype” has enabled Harman to design fans and other industrial products that radically reduce friction.
The world is full of straight pipes—a design that nature never uses. This results in inefficiency, noise, wear, erosion, and pollution. Refrigeration and air-conditioning systems are about 25 percent energy efficient, and the internal combustion engine is at best 30 percent efficient. Nature-based design radically changes the outcome. Harman’s approach has been tested and proven. His biggest success so far is the vortex-inspired design of a small four by six-inch mixer that can circulate up to 10 million gallons of stagnant drinking water in storage tanks. This simple innovation that uses the power of three light bulbs is now the number one specified product for maintaining water quality in the United States. What that little mixer has already done for thousands of municipalities, Flair promises to do for households around the world.
That means that 94 percent of the energy used doesn’t provide the desired effect: cooling. Flair is 85 percent more efficient, but also far quieter because the design creates natural air flows. This means that the fan can healthily circulate the air in an average-sized room for the energy of an LED light bulb (six watts). Lab tests show that air velocity of Flair is also more powerful than a regular fan. In other words: the user will experience more pleasant cooling.
There are around 800 million portable fans in the world and in fast-growing countries like India, the fan is one of the first luxury items to be purchased. The purchase of an ultra-efficient Flair can compete with the transition to a mostly plant-based diet when it comes to biggest contribution any individual can make to reversing global warming.
It saves enormous amounts of energy, dollars and carbon emissions. That’s the bountiful reward for avoiding friction. With the earth heating up—July 2019 was the hottest month in recorded history—and carbon emissions accelerating global warming, there is an urgent need for innovation to change the course of climate change. Harman concludes: “Change your fan, change the world.”.
Published from Kamp Solutions magazine. More information: https://www.kamp.solutions/